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LGC100: 50-21 in local government's powerlist

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Lgc100 2016 index

Lgc100 2018 index

The LGC100 identifies the most influential people whose work will shape local government in 2018. Our list includes officers, members, national politicians, civil servants and thinkers.

The list was compiled using nominations from the public, the LGC editorial team and a panel of judges. Read more about how we compiled the list here.

50 Nick King, special adviser, MHCLG

Special advisers can have significant influence in policymaking. Housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid’s special adviser has extensive experience in his field.

Having started his political consultancy career as a special adviser to the Conservatives when they were in opposition, Mr King did stints with Hanover Communications and Heathcroft Communications before returning to Westminster to work at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (now BEIS) and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, for which he advised Mr Javid in the latter’s previous role as culture secretary.

The pair’s working relationship continued when Mr Javid moved to the DCLG in May 2015 and took Mr King with him.

49 Judith Blake (Lab), leader, Leeds City Council

The first female leader at Leeds City Council, and chair of the Core Cities group, Judith Blake is an influential figure in the protracted devolution regarding both the Leeds City region and Yorkshire as a whole. 

She is also vice-chair of the Local Government Association’s environment, economy, housing and transport board. 

Cllr Blake has been vocal about the need for improved rail connectivity across the north of England in order to help boost productivity and as a member of the West Yorkshire CA she has taken a leading role on issues such as flooding and economic growth.

48 Jonathan Slater, permanent secretary, Department for Education

Jonathan Slater is highly regarded and seen as particularly influential on the skills agenda. 

Before joining the civil service in 2001, he was a council deputy chief executive and director of education. He has held roles across various government departments. 

He replaced permanent secretary for the current Department of Communities & Local Government Melanie Dawes in 2015 when he became director general and head of the Economic and Domestic Secretariat in the Cabinet Office. 

Mr Slater was promoted to his current role after seven months and pledged to drive an “ambitious equalities agenda across government”.

47 Martin Reeves, chief executive, Coventry City Council

After 18 months as interim chief executive of the West Midlands CA, Martin Reeves is now fully focused on Coventry again and was a driving force behind the city’s successful City of Culture bid. 

A deep-thinker and visionary, Mr Reeves, a past president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, continues to provide friendly challenge to the sector. He used a recent LGC interview to call for greater diversity to help councils reconnect with their communities as the country comes to terms with Brexit. 

LGC understands Mr Reeves is now overseeing a review into his own council’s equality and diversity.

46 Marvin Rees (Lab), mayor, Bristol City Council

Bristol’s mayor is facing a difficult period after being elected on a wave of hope and optimism in 2016. 

As Mr Rees seeks to get the city’s finances back on track, divisions within his own party are emerging. Bristol has a strong Momentum faction and Mr Rees is now facing a big battle to keep supporters onside after previously being urged to pass a ‘no cuts’ budget. He refused and now a faction within the union Unite recently passed a vote of no confidence in Mr Rees. 

This could make it increasingly difficult for Mr Rees, an eloquent speaker who is increasingly influential in the Core Cities group, to deliver on his manifesto pledges, including the tough target of building 2,000 homes a year by 2020.

45 Liam Booth-Smith, chief executive, Localis

Since joining as chief executive in July 2016, Liam Booth-Smith has turned Localis into a crucible of centre-right thinking. In an essay collection published in October, the thinktank refined the concept of neo-localism, which makes an emotional – romantic even – case for localism, as opposed to the more rationalist, purely economic arguments espoused more widely. 

Mr Booth-Smith, who has previously held communications roles at the consultancy Impower and New Local Government Network, has occasionally been critical of the government but nevertheless is listened to by ministers, including Sajid Javid. His entertaining columns in LGC and national newspapers have spread the argument for localism more widely. 

44 Sarah Pickup, deputy chief executive, Local Government Association

Ms Pickup is widely respected as a specialist in the finer points of business rates localisation and social care funding; the two most significant and complex issues facing local government in 2018. 

She previously worked for Hertfordshire CC as deputy chief executive with responsibility for corporate services as well as being the county’s chief finance officer. 

While chief executive Mark Lloyd is seen as a diplomat – an essential quality in a person who must lead an organisation as varied as the LGA and still have the ear of central government – the judges described Ms Pickup as having the ability to “get answers out of politicians”, which is no mean feat with a government consumed by Brexit.

43 Barry Wood (Con), leader, Cherwell DC

A leftfield suggestion for inclusion in the LGC100? Maybe, but while local government has been overall so powerless in response to the housing crisis Barry Wood is one of the few to demonstrate a novel approach. 

He has been a key figure in Cherwell’s self-build project, which has already delivered 2,000 new homes in the Oxfordshire district, helping the council to scoop the ‘most entrepreneurial council of the year’ and ‘council with the best housing initiative’ accolades at the 2016 LGC Awards.

The LGC100 judges said the ground-breaking project “could influence a wider debate and future thinking on housing” and branded Cllr Wood “a doer” rather than a talker when it came to solving pressing issues.

The LGC100 judges said the ground-breaking project “could influence a wider debate and future thinking on housing” and branded Cllr Wood “a doer” rather than a talker when it came to solving pressing issues.

42 Jim McMahon, shadow local government minister

As leader of Oldham MBC from 2011 until being elected to Parliament in a 2015 by-election, Jim McMahon was regarded as one of the Labour’s bright young things. As a councillor, he demonstrated his capacity for wider leadership in a stint as Labour group leader of the Local Government Association. There were fears local government would lose a valuable cheerleader on Mr McMahon’s entry to Parliament but before long he took his current shadow position and has since been outspoken on the benefits of revived localism and greater devolution. 

In 2017, he attracted national attention with a private members’ bill proposing to extend voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds, the second reading of which is scheduled for May this year.

41 Sir Edward Lister, chair, Homes England

As chair of the Homes and Communities Agency, Sir Edward raised the organisation’s profile following his appointment in June 2016. He is now on a mission to get Homes England, as it has been rebranded, to play a far more proactive role in delivering homes, and has government. 

In June he outlined a more “aggressive and interventionist” approach to the housing market while Sir Edward, who was Wandsworth LBC’s leader for 19 years, has even expressed a desire to take on some councils’ planning responsibilities should the opportunity arise. 

London’s former deputy mayor for policy and planning could be prominent in 2018.

40 Joanna Killian, incoming chief executive, Surrey CC

There was some delight within the chief executive community that one of its biggest names, Joanna Killian, was to regain a leading role within the sector. 

She has been influential for the past two years as KPMG’s head of local government, and had been regarded as one of the highest profile private sector figures working alongside councils.

Ms Killian will be called on to use the expertise she gained in her former role as Essex CC chief executive. 

Surrey might be the ultimate Conservative heartland but it has been badly affected by austerity and warned before the local government finance settlement that it might have to hold a referendum to increase council tax. 

39 Baroness Scott (Con), leader, Wiltshire Council

The Tory peer is among the most long-standing and influential leaders in local government. 

Having spearheaded the creation of her unitary county in 2009, and two years later took it ‘chiefless’, she is a prominent proponent of the benefits of single-tier governance, and angered some when she recently claimed it was “immoral” to persist with wasteful two-tier arrangements. 

Baroness Scott’s stature was shown when she was the only Conservative appointed to the independent Grenfell recovery task force sent to support and monitor Kensington & Chelsea RBC in developing and implementing a long-term recovery plan following the Grenfell Tower fire.

38 Eleanor Kelly, chief executive, Southwark LBC

When Sajid Javid lambasted the sector for its collective response to the Grenfell Tower disaster it must have been particularly galling to Eleanor Kelly. After Kensington & Chelsea RBC initially stalled, Ms Kelly had a role as the public face of London’s Gold Command emergency team – no easy role amid the anger and heartbreak. 

The Grenfell disater came just 11 days after Southwark faced a tragedy of its own when terrorists struck London Bridge, killing eight. 

Ms Kelly recently admitted to LGC that her roles had taken their toll on her, and other officers involved, but the public sector resilience she exemplified following Grenfell and London Bridge will surely inspire steel in others. 

37 Sir Amyas Morse, comptroller and auditor general, National Audit Office

Now in his ninth year as head of the NAO, Sir Amyas has proved himself to be unafraid of ruffling government feathers. 

In spring 2018, the NAO will publish its third report on the financial sustainability of local authorities since the advent of austerity. Its last report, in 2014, pointed out that the Department for Communities & Local Government had no effective way of measuring the impact funding cuts were having on council services. 

Three years on and with councils facing major uncertainty as to how they will be funded beyond 2020, the NAO’s intervention has the potential to have a significant impact on the debate. Do not expect Sir Amyas to pull any punches. 

36 David Behan, chief executive, Care Quality Commission

His straight-talking style and background in local government has established David Behan as a respected critical friend of the sector. 

The CQC’s unprecedented intervention in the adult social care debate is considered pivotal in persuading the government to provide the extra £2bn that has relieved some immediate pressures on the system. 

With the CQC now focused on the interface of health and social care, and local area inspections taking place within a backdrop of government threats to control council’s social spending if they are deemed to be performing badly on delayed transfers, Mr Behan’s assessment of the evidence gathered on the ground could prove key to the government’s future direction of travel on social care.

35 Tony Travers, director, LSE London

Academic, pundit and commentator on all things local government, it is Tony Travers, professor at the London School of Economics, who more often than not appears on television to simply explain some abstruse point of council financing, or discuss the significance of local elections. 

His London Finance Commission in 2017 made a series of recommendations on the capital gaining full control of council tax and business rates which will be influential nationwide. He will now sit on another finance commission, for the West Midlands, aimed at securing the region new sources of investment. 

Professor Travers has been critical of the impact of austerity on councils and services and recently predicted it was conceivable regions including London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester could seek secession within England.

34 Dave Hill, executive director of social care and education, Essex CC

As the immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Dave Hill has become a key national figure for driving improvement in services, both as a government commissioner and through sector-led support to councils. 

Awarded a CBE in the New Year Honours List for his services to children’s social care, Mr Hill is a passionate advocate of “radical non-intervention” that rejects “formulaic and reactionary” approaches in favour of supporting family resilience. 

He continues to influence thinking within the children’s social care system and Whitehall on approaches to structure and practice, and is likely to play a key role as an advocate of local government as funding pressures continue to grow. 

33 Sir Richard Leese (Lab), leader, Manchester City Council

In 2014 Manchester City Council’s long-standing leader was jointly awarded the top slot in the LGC100. Ironically, Sir Richard’s success in being a driving force behind devolution means power is now shared more equally around the wider Greater Manchester area and he occupies a lower ranking. 

Nevertheless, Sir Richard is now also the Greater Manchester CA’s deputy mayor and his relationship with mayor Andy Burnham (Lab) will be crucial in driving the wider city’s future success. 

Sir Richard, who became leader of Manchester City Council in 1996 and was deputy leader for six years before that, is widely credited with helping rebuild the city.

32 Paul Carter (Con), leader, Kent CC

Paul Carter’s hopes of succeeding Lord Porter as Local Government Association chairman received a setback when he narrowly lost to Hillingdon LBC’s David Simmonds in a ballot for Conservative group leader last year. 

However, he remains influential nationally and has been a loud and articulate defender of the interest of county councils, occasionally angering districts along the way.

The chair of the County Councils Network has been leader of Kent since 2005 and is noted for having taken such a large authority ‘chiefless’.

The fair funding review and counties’ bids to create new unitaries will ensure a busy workload for Cllr Carter – and potential controversy in 2018. 

31 Lord Kerslake, Crossbench peer

The former Department for Communities & Local Government permanent secretary and head of the civil service has his fingers in many pies. These include chairing the Centre for Public Scrutiny, housing association Peabody and the London Collective Investment Vehicle, and serving as president of the Local Government Association. 

Widely respected within the sector, Lord Kerslake caused a national stir when he resigned as chair of King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in protest at the government’s “unrealistic” approach to health funding. 

Next year he will advise Labour – whose leadership is better known for marching in protests along Whitehall than knowing Whitehall’s workings – on improving its readiness for government.

30 Alexander Jones, director of industrial strategy, BEIS

Tasked with leading on the government’s industrial strategy, and with it more powers being devolved to cities, the former Centre for Cities chief executive’s fingerprints can be seen on the finished document, although rural areas and towns do still get a look-in. 

Getting that document out is one thing but overseeing its implementation will be another. 

Expect Ms Jones, who has adopted a low-key approach since taking up her new role at the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in March, to have a much greater presence in the sector in 2018 as council officers and leaders unpick the strategy’s many threads and seek to take advantage of the opportunities it presents.

29 Dominic Raab (Con), housing minister

Housing has become a key policy for the current prime minister and it has just become the top priority for a future leader of the country (if various political onlookers are to be believed) too. 

Dominic Raab is said to be one of the best regarded ministers in Whitehall but his previous comments on housing issues could come back to haunt him. 

A staunch protector of the green belt, Mr Raab was among a contingent of vocal Tory backbenchers who succeeded in getting his now boss at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government – Sajid Javid – to climb down over proposals to get areas building more homes on protected land in order to meet the country’s housing need.

28 Meg Hillier (Lab), chair, Commons public accounts committee

In last year’s LGC100, the jury was still out on whether Ms Hillier would continue her predecessor Margaret Hodge’s infamously forthright exposure of government inefficiency. 

However, in the past 12 months, the Hackney South and Shoreditch MP has lambasted the government for failing to clearly define its ambitions for devolved councils; criticised the prime minister for failing to develop cross-party consensus on social care and for “bickering” with NHS England chief Simon Stevens; and slammed the role of local enterprise partnerships in industrial strategies as “incomprehensible”. 

Ms Hillier’s term will likely continue into 2019, and she shows no signs of mellowing.

27 Matt Prosser and Debbie Ward, chief executive, Dorset Councils Partnership, chief executive, Dorset CC

The judges felt these two chiefs deserved joint recognition for their co-operation on what could be a game-changing reorganisation, dividing nine councils into two unitaries. Matt Prosser has been a driving force for the project, and is also well-regarded in the role as Solace’s spokesman on digital leadership. Dorset’s reorganisation would not have received Sajid Javid’s support without broad agreement across different tiers and Debbie Ward played a key role in getting the county council on board as she bought into, and helped sell, the vision of creating far more sustainable local authority structures than those currently in place. Mr Javid is due to make a final decision early this year

26 Melanie Dawes, permanent secretary, MHCLG

Many within local government report the Whitehall department representing their interests has been particularly slow and overworked since the Grenfell Tower disaster stretched its resources to the limit. Councils seeking restructuring have been particularly anxious. 

However, its secretary of state has insisted it can cope and it is Melanie Dawes’ job to keep the whole show on the road.

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government faces a difficult 2018, with Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s public inquiry into Grenfell Tower likely to raise questions about its past performance; meanwhile, political pressure for greater housebuilding will intensify.

25 Tom Riordan, chief executive, Leeds City Council

Tom Riordan is quietly influential and respected far beyond his city’s boundaries. Leeds is self-confident, economically growing and its council is well-regarded, with many strong services. His council took tough decisions early this decade and has withstood austerity resiliently.

Tempers have frayed in Yorkshire lately over the government’s refusal to countenance a One Yorkshire countywide devolution deal, although Sajid Javid did signal a compromise before Christmas when he indicated that it could eventually proceed. As one of the historic county area’s most authoritative – and calming – voices, Mr Riordan will be a significant figure in 2018 in determining if One Yorkshire can make headway.

24 Catherine Frances, director – public services, Treasury

Local government is badly in need of reformed funding, from finding a solution to financing social care sustainably to tackling greater self-sufficiency through a revamped business rates system. In 2018, these pressures will only become more urgent but as every council chief executive knows, the buck does not stop with the Department for Communities & Local Government; major reforms on this scale must first receive approval from the Treasury, which ultimately holds the purse strings. 

Ms Frances is in direct contact with local government in her role as public sector director at the Treasury, and as such could wield influence over the solutions to those big funding questions.

23 Donna Hall, chief executive, Wigan MBC

Big changes are afoot at Wigan MBC. Its bold service reform initiative, The Deal, has attracted attention from other councils looking to radically transform service delivery, rather than salami-slice their way through funding cuts. The Deal, which Ms Hall describes as creating a “new psychological contract” between the council and residents based on co-designing services, was showcased at an event for other authorities and third sector organisations last September. 

The LGC judges said Ms Hall is “an excellent chief executive” who is “touted for every job going”.  

Whether she continues to drive transformation at Wigan or moves on to a new challenge, Ms Hall will continue to make herself known in the sector in 2018.

22 Paul Johnson, director, Institute for Fiscal Studies

The Institute for Fiscal Studies is perhaps the UK’s most authoritative voice on fiscal policy and Paul Johnson, director since 2011, is its most prominent figure. 

It is to the IFS’s crunching of the numbers that opinion makers turn to after each Budget or other significant government financial action. 

In addition to this, the institute is currently conducting a multi-year programme examining major changes in local government finance: its verdict will be heeded. 

As the LGC judging panel put it: “The IFS’s research is better than what councils are producing themselves on finance – and the government fears what Paul Johnson has to say.”

21 Dawn Baxendale, incoming chief executive, Birmingham City Council

Dawn Baxendale (perhaps sharing the accolade with Barry Quirk) faces local government’s greatest challenge. LGC has heard only plaudits of her work at Southampton City Council but restoring Birmingham’s finances to health, keeping its workforce happy and retaining credibility among local and national politicians is an inbox of a whole new level of difficulty. 

Last year the city’s improvement panel’s threats to place Birmingham in special measures led Mark Roger’s to resign from the chief’s role, while leader John Clancy (Lab) was forced out and interim chief Stella Manzie was damaged by the city’s bin strike. Local government craves success for Ms Baxendale.

 

 

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